In a move that could signal a shift in the so-called smartphone patent wars, HTC and Apple have reached a settlement that shelves current legal disputes in favor of a 10-year licensing deal between the two companies. The exact details were not disclosed, but the agreement comes at a time when HTC desperately needs to stop bleeding money quarter after quarter and after Apple scored a $1 billion victory over Samsung this past summer.
Both parties issued similar statements from their chief executives, saying the settlement will allow the focus to remain on “innovation instead of litigation,” as HTC’s Peter Chou phrased it. The disagreement between the two goes back to 2010, when Apple sued HTC for allegedly infringing upon patents relating to the iPhone. Later, Apple was able to secure a ban on the import of certain HTC handsets based on the rulings of the International Trade Commission.
HTC’s shares saw a spike Monday morning after news of the settlement broke, though the licensing agreement is not expected to have a direct impact on the company’s short-term financials. Analysts also warn that HTC still has plenty of other challenges to overcome in order to turn around a trend that has seen the company become less and less profitable over time.
While the deal has given HTC a boost, it is the implication it could have for other current patent disputes pertaining to Apple that is perhaps most intriguing. Apple has long taken a stance that it would simply use its money and muscle to crush the competition both in and out of the courtroom. Coming to terms with HTC could mean Apple finally sees such legal wrangling as a waste of both time and money, with licensing deals and settlements a much better alternative for all involved. It will be interesting to see if Samsung, Motorola, and Apple all follow suit.